Wednesday, October 14, 2009

How Not to Act

There's something that's been needling at me lately, and I think I need to let it out this way.

Let's look at two writers. Let's call them both "she". Yes, these are both Real Examples.

WRITER A: I've been following Writer A's progress since she was on the agent hunt, since before I had even completed my second book. She was funny, witty, and her book sounded I was interested. I bookmarked her site and checked back on her progress. I made encouraging comments. I cheered when she got an agent, when her book sold. I was all ready to support her, buy her books, help spread the word.

But she never replied to me. Not once. Not on the blog, not on twitter. From the very beginning she projected an attitude I can only describe as snooty. Like she had to shelter herself from "fans" (she even called them fans before her book came out!). It certainly wasn't just me, either. She communicated back only with a select group of writers who were already published, famous. She didn't respond to all those congratulatory messages. She gave the impression, always, that she was above all the unwashed, unpubbed, unagented writers. Again, not just to me. When I mentioned her name to another writer, I got a nose wrinkle.

Do you think I bought her book?  Do you think I even read her book? Do you think I will?

WRITER B: Writer B was different. Always approachable, at every stage. She's released two books into the wild, very successful ones, but she never projects that "above-you" image. She makes a point to answer every comment. She replies to most @ tweets, no matter who the commenter is. She seeks out other writer's blogs and makes comments. She hosts and celebrates other writers, at lots of different stages. Her tweets and blogs aren't all about her--they're also building a community.

Yes, it takes more time to be like Writer B. Absolutely. But did I buy Writer B's books? HELL, YES. Did I tweet about them, write about them, hand-sell them to other people? HELL, YES. When I'm looking to give away a book, whose book do you think I'll pick?

It might not make that much of a difference, you say. You're just one person. So somebody rubbed you the wrong way--so what?

The thing is, if you're in the YA community (yes, there is one) and I named you these two writers, I would bet you $20 that 90% of you (at least) would have the same reaction. One is "eh" and one is "I love her!" All those writers are also readers, powerful readers who spread the word. I'd also bet you that if Writer A is like that with other writers, she's probably also like that with readers.This will hurt your sales. It will also forever hurt how people see you.

Writers, it isn't just one person. It's important how you connect with people before, during, and after the publication process. It's important that you've got some humility, remember your manners, reach out.

  • Be an active part of your community. Take the time.
  • Other writers are not beneath you because they haven't reached your place on the road yet. Talk to them. Encourage them.
  • Readers never, ever, ever will be beneath you. Don't condescend. Don't be rude. They are and always will be critical to your success.
There. I feel better now.


Jean Wogaman said...

I've noticed this type of behavior too, and I have the same reaction you do. I feel no loyalty to authors who suddenly start treating me like no more than a "fan." There are more good books out there than I could get to in a lifetime. I'll always have plenty to read, with or without their contributions. But when authors treat me like a colleague, I'll try out their books even if they've written in a genre I don't usually go for.

melissa said...

You're so right! I'm not a writer, but I'm a reader, and I would be 100% more likely to buy the book by Writer B (who I just might know who you're talking about, but I probably shouldn't name names huh?)

Unknown said...

Great post, as usual Susan. I've been kind of on the fringe of the writey peeps for a while but am getting back in, or trying to. I often feel outclassed by agented or published authors and really appreciate it when someone extends themself to me, even just to encourage me. When/if their books come out I of course feel tons more loyalty towards them.

Of course there is the other side of the coin. People who've been unnecessarily harsh, or acted arrogantly-- they could write the next "To Kill A Frigging Mockingbird" and I wouldn't pick it up.

ps-- ten *classy* points for not telling us names.

Karen Mahoney said...

Amen, Susan. Such a great post. :)

Susan Adrian said...

Jeanie: YES! Exactly!! I feel no loss for not reading Writer A's book. There are so many others just waiting for me.

Melissa: Nope, no names. But I'm glad you know at least one Writer B!

Sue: I'd never name names. That's just bad karma right there! But you're right, I always remember the people who helped me early on. And those who help me now!!

Karen: Thanks!! You're a B, btw. :)

Josin L. McQuein said...

Meh. I know people like this on Twitter, and not just writers. It's annoying, and you sort of want to un-follow them, but the things they do tweet are actually useful in some way, so you can't.

Good post.

(I had to LoL at that last comment. This is probably the first time in history the phrase: "You're a B, btw." is a compliment :-P )

B Mari Landgrebe said...

I have overly high hopes for myself as a writer - I think we all do. I want my books to become so loved, I get book tours all over the world, reprints, dozens of fan site, etc etc etc. Silly, but just a hope, nothing I'd expect from my future. It'd be nice, sure, but I just want to write, and for readers to love my stories.

Most of all, though, I'd hate to ever become Writer A. It just... annoys me, the invisible boundaries I feel even though I'm going through exactly what they did. I interact w/ most of them on Twitter. Well, all of them, except a few blogs.

There are authors out there who make me feel lesser because I'm not anywhere near even querying agents. Its not that they're overly snooty in any way, but it seems they've made a sort of clique, one that I feel I can't infiltrate unless I get published too. There are some I tweet to in the hope's of getting an @reply from, but I get excited and disappointed at the same time when they DM me instead, like they don't want to be seen chatting with me.

A sign for me that an author is still a writer (I delineate between pubbed and unpubbed that way) is when they RT readers who've tweeted about loving their book, thanking them for enjoying it. A published YA author (I so want to name her for her awesomeness!) even tweets with me about WRITING, which I don't see very often. I feel like she understands, like she WANTS me to write a book that can stand on the bookstore shelves beside hers. Its really encouraging.

She's the kind of Author AND Writer I want to be.

Anonymous said...

That's a shame about writer A. The writing community I've engaged online in my very short life as a writer has been awesome. Why would you want to shut that out?

Susan Adrian said...

Josin: LOL. Hey, I'm a B, and that's okay. :)

Brittany: THAT is an excellent comment. Thank you!! And there are actually lots of Bs...pubbed writers who are nice and encouraging. You just have to find them and ignore the As.

Susan Adrian said...

Jonathan: I Do Not Know!! I too think the writing community--especially YA, because that's where I am--is awesome. *shrug*

Rissa Watkins said...

Very good post.

As a newbie writer I see this a lot. But there are several authors/agents on twitter and blogs who are very good about replying to comments or tweets. You are one of them.

And you are right, it does make a huge difference in if I want to read or promo their books or not.

B Mari Landgrebe said...

*blushes* aww shucks. Thanks.

Maureen Child said...

I saw the link to this blog on Twitter (where I'm wandering around like a lost puppy!)

You really said this very well, Susan. And no, there's no reason at all to snub ANYONE. EVER. Especially another writer, published or not. We all start out unpublished, after all. =)


nerinedorman said...

Tsk... Well, I can say one thing for sure, over the years I've been in the habit of writing to my favourite authors to tell them how much I love their writing.

And we're talking some really stellar names.

And it totally blows me away when they reply... or accept friend requests on assorted social networking sites.

And I stop seeing them as way up there on pedestals but just as really cool, friendly people, who cry, laugh, swear and work as much as I do.

To thank them, I'll go out and buy their books. Because not only do they enrich my reading time, but they're not stuck with their noses in the air.

Of course certain peeps are just so overwhelmed by fansgrrls I don't blame them for not reacting. But then hey, not everyone is Neil Gaiman now, okay?

Susan Adrian said...

Rissa: WHEW, I'm glad I'm one of the ones who reply. There was a moment after I posted this when I was like "what if everyone ELSE sees me as an A" and I bit my nails. :)

Maureen: Twitter is fabulous, isn't it? And YES. No snubbing.

Nerine: It *is* really cool when big pubbed authors respond, isn't it? I get very fan-girl.

Pen said...

Hi Susan,

I'm new to the online writing comunnity, though I've been blogging for a while. So, I have just discovered you. :) Love the post!

I know as a writer trying to build a network and learn from those who have gone before there's nothing more exciting than a author being willing to share their knowledge and 'take you under there wing' as it were.

On the other hand, there's nothing more discouraging than being snubbed by one who thinks so little of us newbies.

After all, they were just like us once upon a time. It's sad some writers are so quick to forget that.

Pegge Bernecker Erkeneff said...

I appreciate your rant! It's a good reminder to me that when I show up in the virtual world, that I can't let my busyness get in the way of building relationships.
Your reflection is spot on, and I want to play and meet people.
I so appreciate that I can interact and hear from readers, potential readers, and discover other writers and interesting people with ordinary and significant stories.
I'll check back to your blog, and follow you on twitter!
Thank you!

Sarah N Fisk said...

I also found this on Twitter! I have to laugh because I JUST wrote something for the people I work for about Social Media Marketing with a little story very similar to this one. Here it is, in case you're interested:

There is one author (I’ll call him Jack) who I started following because I loved his novels. Jack writes novels in my favorite genres, and his are some of the best (in my opinion). Jack’s Twitter feed looked something like this:

- My novel Title is now available on Amazon! Click *here* to buy it.
- Title just released in Argentina. If you know anyone there, tell them to buy it!
- My novel Other Title is #13 on the e-book list, click *here* to buy it and make it #1
- Buy my novel
- Buy my other novel

Now, there is another author who I will refer to as Jill. Jill writes ****, a genre I am not very interested in. However, one of the agents I follow highly recommended Jill to her followers. Jill’s tweets are entertaining, informative, and engaging. She will answer most questions that are messaged to her – usually in a goofy odd-ball kind of way. Her tweets often make me laugh out loud or shake my head and say “That silly Jill.” Her voice comes through, even when it is limited to 140 characters at a time. She may mention one of her books in one out of 30 tweets, but never with the word “buy.” Usually, it’s to answer a question that someone asked about it.

So, I make weekly (or more often) trips to Barnes & Noble. I try to limit myself to one or two books per trip. So this last time when I went, I walked through my favorite genre's section and looked at Jack’s new book… and then I walked over to the **** section and purchased one of Jill’s books.

Oh, and I no longer follow Jack on Twitter.

Anonymous said...

BB!!! This post is AWESOME!!! I had this EXACT A vs B situation happen to me...several times over. It's not a nice feeling when you talk to someone, then give them a complement, then jump in front of them waving your arms like, "I'M A WRITER AND I'M TRYING TO SUPPORT YOU TOO" and they don't acknowledge your existence. :P

Props to supportive writers everywhere!! You get what you give!! **\o/**

Rhonda Helms said...

I so, so, so agree. Well said.

Corinne Bowen said...

Thank you for posting this! It's an issue I've been discussing with a couple writer friends and it's nice to see a conversation starting here about it. I'm just beginning to understand the depth of this community and it is a thrill to become part of it through blogging, FB, and tweets! I feel an immediate allegiance to writers who respond (with an original, not canned response) to my thoughts on writing or my questions at their blogs! It's easy to feel insecure in this cyberworld, but sometimes all it takes is a few sentences to form a bond. I'm glad that I found your blog through Janet Reid and I'll add it to my Google Reader!

~Jamie said...

I love this post! I just can't say that enough... and the thing is--what if one of those people she was ignoring actually had SERIOUS writer talent and they could have helped one another along their journey, but she was way too snotty to even respond.

I think people understand when we're busy and can't help, etc. but I love that there are authors out there who take the actual time to respond and be a part of the community they're working to build!

Sage Ravenwood said...

Wonderful post and observations. I've had it happen to me. I'll try to be pleasant a few times and patient to see how someone responds.

Understandably sometimes people tend to be busy. The fact is if you're too busy for your readers, you shouldn't be surprised when they're too busy to run out and buy your book.

I rarely comment back in my comments. However I do make an effort to answer personal emails. It's just common courtesy. If someone takes the time to write you, shouldn't you have the decency to do the same. Indigo

Gayle Carline said...

I'm going to name names here, because he's so darn nice: I met Lee Child at Bouchercon this year, in the bar, where everybody meets everybody. I am a very newly published author. One of the other newbies was picking his brains about what we should do to get our books sold.

Lee's advice? BE NICE TO PEOPLE. He told the story of a lady who said she bought one of his books because she saw him hold the door open for someone.

Honestly, what does it cost to be generous of spirit?


Suzan Harden said...

Hi Susan,

I followed Janet Reid to your blog. I'd have to say, 'AMEN!'

I've been fortunate to have a few published authors who've been more than gracious with their time and comments while I'm forging my way to a career in fiction. Do I sell these folks every chance I get? You betcha!

Good luck on your own career! Karma goes a long way.

lisa and laura said...

Fabulous post!!! There's really something to be said for just being nice, isn't there? I understand that people are busy and oftentimes don't have time to respond to every blog comment or Tweet, but never responding or only responding to famous people? That's just bad business not to mention bad manners.

P.S. Is the nice author you're talking about Becca Fitzpatrick??? She's unreal. Always takes the time to respond to every single comment on her blog. Love. Her.

Diana said...

Wonderful post. It reminds me of a saying in Hollywood, "be nice to people on your way up, because you will see them again on your way down."

I think though that I would cut a writer some slack on twitter. Some of us, haven't quite got the hang of using it or facebook.

Miladysa said...

Well said!

Amy Sue Nathan said...

I don't write YA, but this is true for all genres I think. I started reading an author's blog after I read her book and loved it. I also emailed her because I reviewed the book on my blog - glowingly. I thought she'd want to know. I never heard from her -- and she's not an uber popular or well-known author. I've written to best-selling authors and gotten gracious and lovely responses, even if it takes a while to get them.

I'll never read another one of the first author's books.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this!! I always wondered if I was alone in this sentiment. I wrote a short story for a competition held by Published Author, and Published Author commented on my blog... to make fun of another commenter for liking my story. That was it! D: Why would you do that to someone who has blogged repeatedly about how much she loves your books, etc? Maybe it *was* a bad short story, but that doesn't give you a license to be mean. & as the other commenters were saying here, maybe you are busy, but that doesn't give you a license to blow off readers who are trying to reach out to you. Is the whole point of publishing to have readers? & if it isn't, shouldn't it be?
Thank you again.
--Anon (to protect Published Author's identity.. sorry :( )

Cassandra Frear said...

A balm to my soul.I suspect that we've all been on the receiving end of the negative behavior you describe. And we've all hopefully experienced the tremendously empowering effects of another writer's encouragement.

I have to remember that I am not always to blame for the way another is responding to me. I may not be trite, boring,and unworthy of someone's time -- just because they obviously think so. Their response may say more about them than it does about me.

That said, I need to be the kind of friend that I want others to be for me.

Dolly said...

I have been thinking about this topic for a while because of some of the blogs I was following. Your post here just encouraged to me finally get on and do the post I wanted to do.

I don't expect people to respond to comments everywhere or all the time, but I do hope that when I leave them 10 comments at different times, they would respond to at least one.

Terry said...

I just discovered your blog via Janet Reid. After reading this post, I'll definitely be back.


Gerry Hatrić said...

Very good advice for life as well as just writing.

MAGolla said...

Beautifully said. I have a blog and never responded until a friend 'gently suggested' (brought out the wet noodle and proceeded to give me twenty) that I respond to posts.
I respond now, but if life is getting in the way--I mention that I won't be responding until sometime later.
You never know who will make it in this biz or not. I'd rather keep in touch with the writers who take the time to communicate with their fans.
--And yes, I have stopped buying some authors because of their attitude.

Jay Montville said...

God, Susan, truer words...

I think these days when people can reach others through every means possible we have to be careful not to expect everyone to respond promptly all the time--there's just too much--but there's a big difference between busyness and snobbishness. Thanks for the reminder.


Natalie said...

Love this! What a fantastic post. I've come across both types of blogging writers too and I love meeting people who take the time to connect with their readers. I hope I can be like that too.

June G said...

I read this post a few weeks ago, then lost track of the site. I was so happy to see it on Janet Reid's blog! I'm going to bookmark your page so it doesn't get lost again!
I've read writer's blogs and felt some of them had an "exclusive" feel--like the author was part of a private club and not everyone was invited. I tend to overanalyze everything and thought that perhaps I was being paranoid. Apparently not. This post confirmed my suspicions unfortunately. Published writing is a public sport. Don't alienate your public. It's dumb.

Anonymous said...

(claps hands)Great post.

I try to be nice to everyone in the writing world, everyone has feelings and deserves courtesy.
Writer B is a gold standard to reach for, you never know if the writer you twitter one day is going to be the editor of that great anthology you want in on next year.

Liesl Shurtliff said...

I don't know writer A or really what she's thinking, but I think some writers mistakenly think that it's appealing to readers to be a bit "mysterious" and not put yourself out there too much. Keep a low profile because it will make you seem more intriguing or a cut above the rest. Okay, snooty is a word for it.

I'm learning more and more that you just can't do that. Not today. Our social networking is too wide and accessible. Word of mouth counts. Making friends in the writing community counts. Nice people win in the end. Even if they don't sell more books, they have more friends! (Hopefully because they have friends they sell more books!)

Great post. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Great post. Found you through Janet Reid. I'm with you on this subject. Thanks for venting what I've been thinking!

Jacqui said...

I appreciate the advice. I'm a writer without a network, who stays up to write after the kids go down. This post reminded me of a recent experience at a local big box. A writer there was trying to sell his books. He caught me sneaking past, my cart full of frozen food, and smiled, his hand outreached, his book in hand. He asked if I'd like to try a great new read. He was genuine, he was kind and he was engaging.

I bought the book. I couldn't help it!

It is fairly terrible, but my impression of him is the same. Writer B, all the way.

Sophie Playle said...

Great advice. It sounds so obvious, doesn't it? But you'd be suprised at how many people are like Writer A.

Deb said...

I'm a new fiction writer -- just starting out. I watch how all writers behave online (twitter/facebook/ etc.) -- the ones I come in contact with anyway :)

I've bought books from fellow twitters outside of a genre I would otherwise read-- just because they were fun, interesting and approachable people online.

I always appreciate when people take time to encourage me, even without having read a word of my work. I try to do the same for others at every opportunity -- from a simple "way to go" to retweeting their story links to recommending their books.

In one case, I chose a fellow twiterer's book for my book club and the whole group of us bought and read it.

It always pays to be gracious and kind.

Lisa Desrochers said...

I love this post. I've felt this way as well. I can understand, to some degree, that super-famous writers get so inundated with fan tweets and comments on blogs that it can be overwelming. But a writer just breaking in, or with only a book or two out there, should be working on building a fan base.

I know it sounds a little spiteful, but there are authors whose books I've refused to buy because they wouldn't follow me on twitter. I'll get theirs from the library if I really want to read it.

I was shocked one day to open my email and find my favorite NYT best selling author was following me on twitter. With twitter lists, you can follow everyone in twitterdom now without cluttering your feed. I've vowed that, when my agent sells my book (hear the optimism), I will follow any fan who follows me.

Dana Elmendorf said...

It always astonishes me when people forget where they came from. I really appreciate you sharing this post and hope to have someone like you in my corner someday.

Susan Adrian said...

Pen: Yes, exactly. I'm lucky that some pubbed writers have taken me under their wing. Someday I hope to do the same!!

Pegge: Nice to "meet" you! You're right, busy-ness can get in the way sometimes. But people can tell who makes the effort, I think.

Sarah: I know people like Jack too. And hello, did I sign up for your ads or your comments? Different deal, right?

Emily: EXACTLY. **\o/**

Rhonda: I'm glad it made sense! :)

Susan Adrian said...

Corinne: I'm glad you found me! And this community is AMAZING once you tap into it--if you participate!!

Jamie: YES! Or what if even the person she snubs isn't a SERIOUS writer, but just another person who needed that contact? That's important too.

Indigo: I try to be patient, too, because sometimes people just can't get back to you quickly or at all right then. And people choose which ways they're accessible (fr'instance on Twitter I don't auto-follow, but I do respond to @ replies). But you've gotta be open SOMEHOW.

Gayle: I haven't met Lee Child yet, but he is FABULOUS. Lucky you!

Suzan: Thanks for the good luck! I will scoop up every bit thrown my way. Of course I try to send some out too. :)

Susan Adrian said...

Lisa and Laura: I suppose it *does* just come down to being nice, really, in the end. And nope, it isn't Becca Fitzpatrick...but I'll check her out!

Diana: Twitter is a bit different. Think I might clarify on that today.

Miladysa: Thanks!

Amy Sue: GRRR. See, that's exactly what I'm talking about!

Anon 6:15: Published Author did WHAT? O_O Wow. That's beyond the pale. I'm sorry.

Cassandra: It's definitely about them, not about you!!

Susan Adrian said...

Lost Wanderer: Do post the link when you talk about it, okay? I'd love to see the conversation continued.

Terry: YAY! Welcome!!

Mulled Vine: This is true--it really applies everywhere.

Magolla: You can't ALWAYS respond. Everybody gets that. But you have to when you can!

Jay: YEP. I think readers can see the line. :)

Susan Adrian said...

Natalie: Thanks! And ME TOO. :)

june: So glad you found me again! And I know about the exclusive club thing. Sometimes I worry that I project that, because I do have little groups of friends who email all the time. But I still love to talk to OTHER writers too!!

slweippert: That's a bonus point, the possibilities of networking. But if you do it ONLY for that, people can tell.

Liesl: Hmm, I wonder. If she thinks she's doing that to enhance her image...I think she's WRONG. :)

Anon 8:19: Thanks!!

Susan Adrian said...

Jacqui: Aw, good on you for talking to the writer and buying the book. He must have reached out well!

Sophie: It does sound obvious. But then so many other things do too and people (including me, lots) miss them!

Deb: Oooh, good luck with the writing! And sounds like you are an excellent person to have in my corner. :)

Lisa: Now Twitter, for me, is a little different--because I just *can't* follow everyone who follows me. At home and on the road I use the web for twitter, and it would swamp the usefulness. But I do ALWAYS answer @replies, and rotate who I'm following!

Girl with one eye: I think I'm already IN your corner!! :)

Patience-please said...

I just found you from Janet Reid's recommendation. This is great advice, and I thank you. I'm Twittercapped. (I warn people not to follow me because I have no earthly idea where the heck I'm going.)

But I do try to keep up with everyone on Facebook. I have not commented on my blog comments, as I felt like I was being self-promoting, if that makes sense? (Bumping my comment numbers) After reading this, I'll change my thinking.

That said, there's no need for you to comment on my comment! I just wanted to say thank you for this post.

Kelly A. Harmon said...

You're making me re-think my blog comment policy...I don't usually post unless I can add something different to the conversation...but now I see that even having nothing new to say is a means of building community. Great post.

Jean Reidy said...

Terrific advice. I adore and support approachable authors. But I'm a Twitter newbie and the whole hashtag thing still flusters me. But I'm learning. Believe me, I'm learning.

Tanya said...

i agree - it is nice to see the writer respond..even if its just a thank you post. i would not buy books from writer A. why would i when there are some many writer B's.

here is an example that is bothering me...newbie writer came out with a book #1...i found her web site to get her email address so that i could send her a thank you note. i truly liked the first one. she sent me a note back thanking me for that and asked if i wanted to be added to her newsletter -said yes.

sent a note after reading book#2 - no response this time. it does leave me wondering - has fame gone to her head. not looking for personal touches but if she cant respond to emails - that should be stated on her blog. ie: "I do not respond to all emails, sorry"

Liz said...

Hi Susan

I had to laugh when I read this blog post and thought "Yay, it's not just me that sees this."

As a reader, reviewer and wannabe author, interacting with others in these three fields is what my life is about. (Gross, I sound like I'm a stalker, but I'm not, I swear!)

I have had some amazing email correspondence and face to face interviews and talks with some truly generous and wonderful well established and big name authors in the past - what struck me most is how they all appeared incredibly humble and genuine when being talked to.

Yet, I've stumbled across a few newly published / almost published people in the past and you cannot help but think: your ego is going to kill you and your career.

Yes, by all means, be a little bit proud of your accomplishments, be a little bit snooty and get over it, quickly. Realise who your audience is, be aware of others watching you and noting how you behave when you are doing public things like being on Twitter or Facebooking.

I sometimes think that people don't realise how vast the internet is and how everything you do on there reflects back on you.

Oh, one more thing: as a writer, why would you want to be mean about other much more succesful writers on your blog or website? Especially if you write for the same age group / genre - surely, because of your rude opinions about their books, you're shooting yourself in the foot? Don't you share an audience, after all?

This is an excellent blog post, Ms. Adrian! Am now even more glad I follow you on Twitter.

Carole St-Laurent said...

This is my first time reading your blog. Like it. It's to the point and so true.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

I'm a no one...I've been published in one children's magazine. I love blogging. I love blogging with people who respond to me, either on their blog or on mine. In life, if you treat people as if they are valuable, (which they are) they will treat you the same way. I try to not say anything negative on line or otherwise about anyone. Whether you "make it" or not as a writer, making it as a person is what matters the most.

Best wishes to all!